Accidentally cooked too much chicken for dinner? not a problem! In addition to being one of the most delicious and versatile foods around, cooked chicken is completely safe to freeze. Placing your chicken in the freezer will keep it safe for months. And since it’s already cooked, the process will be painless! In this article, we’ll break down the most effective ways to freeze cooked chicken so the meat is safe and offer advice on how to cook it safely when you’re ready to eat it again.
[Edit]things you should know
- Allow your chicken to chill for about 24 hours before storing it in the freezer. Let it sit at room temperature for about an hour. Then, keep it in the fridge overnight.
- Before freezing your chicken, peel off any skin and remove any bones.
- Cut your chicken into smaller pieces before freezing to make portioning and defrosting quicker and easier.
- Before long-term storage, flash-freeze your chicken by placing it in the freezer for 1 hour. This will ensure that its texture and flavor remain intact.
[Edit]chill and cut
- Chill your chicken by refrigerating it for up to 24 hours. To prevent your freezer temperature from rising, allow the internal and external temperature of your chicken to drop until the meat is cool to the touch. Begin the cooling process by first allowing it to sit at room temperature for about an hour. Then, keep it in the fridge for overnight.
- Refrigerate your chicken for no more than 2 hours after cooking to prevent bacteria growth.
- Peel off the skin of the chicken. Once your chicken is cool, begin peeling and discarding all the fatty skin. To skin the chicken, firmly grasp the joint end of your chicken skin and pull off each whole piece, one at a time. If your chicken doesn’t have a jointed end (if it’s a drumstick, cutlet, etc.), grab the meaty end and peel it off.
- If the chicken skin is too hard to get hold of, use a paper towel or try dipping your fingers in salt.
- Don’t worry about pulling the skin off the wing ends, joints, and other parts of the chicken that can’t be peeled easily.
- Remove any chicken bones. If your chicken pieces have bones (thighs, legs, etc.), get rid of them to ensure the meat freezes evenly. Place the chicken on a cutting board skin side down and use a sharp boning knife or chef’s knife to find the bone under the meat. Make a small incision to separate the bone from the meat and use your fingers to pry the bone out.
- You can freeze your bones and use them in the future to make healthy bone broth or chicken stock.
- Cut your chicken into small pieces. Cut your chicken into small pieces using a chef’s knife or kitchen shears. Cut your chicken based on the recipes you plan to use the chicken for in the future. If you want to make a casserole or soup, bite-sized pieces may be the best option. If you plan to serve them as whole breasts or in cutlets, cut just enough so that your chicken will fit into the containers you plan to use.
- Shredding your chicken ensures that your chicken will freeze more evenly. Plus, it’s more convenient to reheat because you don’t have to thaw stuffed breasts.
[Edit]freezing and storage
- Flash-freeze the chicken for 1 hour. After cooking and shredding your chicken, lay your chicken pieces in a flat, single layer on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in your freezer for 1 hour until the pieces begin to harden. This will ensure that your chicken retains its texture and flavor.
- Flash-freezing also ensures that your chicken pieces won’t stick together as they cool individually quickly and that the ice crystals will be smaller when you put them in the freezer for long-term storage.
- Portion your chicken and seal each serving in plastic wrap. After you flash-frozen your chicken, serve your chicken in 1-2 cups each (or whatever serving size is appropriate for the recipes you have planned). Then, wrap each portion in saran wrap to reduce the risk of freezer burn.
- If you don’t have enough containers, wrap your chicken pieces tightly in aluminum foil and place them on an aluminum foil tray.
- Place your chicken in plastic bags or containers and label/date them. Begin by placing each wrapped chicken portion in an airtight ziplock bag or plastic container. Label and date your containers with a marker to prevent confusion and ensure you know how long you have to cook your chicken.
- If you plan to freeze multiple layers of chicken pieces in one container, put a layer of freezer paper between them for faster thawing.
- But freeze your chicken. Place your containers inside your freezer. Check the temperature regularly and make sure it doesn’t rise above the freezing point by the time you freeze your cooked chicken.
- If the power goes out in your freezer, eat your food within 24 hours before it spoils.
- Don’t freeze your chicken for longer than 4 months. While raw chicken can be frozen for about a year, the USDA says that frozen cooked chicken tastes best if it is stored at 0 degrees for no longer than a total of 4 months. Keep an eye on the date on your containers and find a recipe to use your cooked chicken within 120 days.
- Chicken patties and nuggets should not be frozen for longer than 3 months.
- Chicken that is heavily covered in marinade/broth or gravy can be frozen for up to 6 months.
[Edit]hot again and again
- Cut off any freezer burnt parts of your chicken. Keeping your chicken in the freezer for long periods of time can cause freezer burn. Inspect your chicken before thawing for excessively discolored or brown spots as these are signs of freezer burn, which kills flavor and promotes bacterial growth. Freezer burn doesn’t spoil the whole meat, so cut away all freezer burnt parts of the chicken with a knife and discard them.
- In areas near old chicken bones, color changes may not be a sign of freezer burn. It is normal for residual pigment to seep through the porous bone tissue into the surrounding parts of the chicken.
- Thaw your chicken in the microwave, fridge or a cold water bath. There are several ways to defrost your cooked chicken when you’re ready to eat it again. If you have some time and want to retain as much flavor as possible, transfer your chicken from the freezer to the refrigerator and allow it to defrost for about 24 hours. If you’re in a hurry, place frozen chicken in a bowl of cold water or directly in the microwave and use the defrost setting.
- If you decide to thaw your chicken in the microwave, open the microwave door and check the temperature of the chicken regularly to make sure it doesn’t start cooking in there.
- Avoid using a slow cooker to thaw your chicken because the heat can encourage bacteria growth and spoil your food.
- Reheat your chicken in the oven if it is a breast or larger. To cook your chicken from frozen, preheat your oven and season the meat while the oven is hot. Then, place your chicken in the oven for 30-45 minutes, checking the internal temperature of the meat regularly and removing it when it reaches 165°F.
- If you have a large piece like a breast or thigh, the oven is usually your best option for reheating your chicken.
- Reheat your chicken in the crock pot once it is in small pieces. To cook your chicken again using the crockpot, place your chicken in the crockpot along with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and other desired seasonings. Cook on medium heat for 5-6 hours or on high heat for 2-3 hours.
- If you plan to make stews, soups, dumplings or other meals where small pieces of chicken can be used as a filling, it’s a good idea to heat your chicken in a crockpot.
- If your chicken is cutlet-sized, reheat it on the stovetop. If you want to cook your chicken using the stovetop, place the chicken on a nonstick skillet and bake the meat over medium-high heat for about 6-7 minutes (or until the bottom layer is golden brown) . Then, turn the chicken over and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
- Spray your pan with non-stick oil before cooking to prevent chicken from sticking to the pan.